Monday, November 18, 2013

I Am Thankful For Every Minute of Pain

Today's post in a guest post written by my sister, Lanna Webb. Lanna truly knows what it means to learn thanksgiving in the midst of adversity, in particular pain. Is God present in our pain? Does he use it for our good? Read Lanna's story to get a glimpse of one person's thoughts on those questions.

Bear with me during the first couple of paragraphs and make it to the end, please.
  I’m 41 years old.  I’ve spent 16 of my adult years – beginning at 17 – with a migraine-intensity chronic tension headache born of a rare form of headache (yay, me) caused by Occipital Neuralgia. O.N. also causes migraines, including chronic ones.  I was blessed with having those, also, although they came in clusters and sometimes gave me some down time.  Yes, I DID have two different types of migraine-intensity headaches at the same time. 
When I turned 32, I took my dream job as a teacher at Brazosport Christian School teaching Secondary (7-12th grade) students. In addition to the headaches, I also began to have pain in other places. It started in the legs – by 6th period every day I was shuffling instead of walking and had to teach sitting down. Then came pain almost everywhere else. Then came the extreme fatigue – so bad that I would sometimes have to pull over on my 20-minute drive home to catch a catnap so I could make it the rest of the way. Then I started tripping over my own feet. And one day, I realized that I was more and more frequently losing ordinary words during conversation. I know a lot of people struggle with trying to drum up words sometimes, but I was beginning to lose them at an alarming rate. I became so dizzy at times that I weaved and ran into lockers or other people in the hallways and fought blacking out. There were other symptoms, as well, and a bevy of tests that all came back clear or inconclusive. 
And still I taught and even began a career as an administrator serving as Secondary Principal. It was more than a job; it was a very clear manifestation of the use God had planned for me, for which He had worked all those decades to prepare me. 
And then one day I couldn’t read. 
Let me backtrack. I noticed that I was having trouble understanding statements and questions about anything that was not overly familiar to me. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t comprehend; I could not understand the words spoken. It was literally as if the person talking to me were using a foreign language. And then I picked up a book and could no longer read. Oh, I could read each individual word, but I could string no more than two together to form a cohesive idea.  
I’m not going to lie – I totally freaked out. 
Long story cut short: I had to quit my job and leave my students. I grieved as if I had lost my best friend to death. And I grieve to this day. My health tanked so badly I ended up, for all intents and purposes, bed-ridden – I could get up some and on the rare day go places, but mostly I lay in bed. For several weeks, I couldn’t read because I couldn’t understand stuff; I couldn’t watch TV because I couldn’t follow the story line for the duration of the show; and I couldn’t adequately converse with my family and friends because I couldn’t hold my concentration to the end of a thought. 
Gradually it got better. Turns out I had suffered brain trauma similar to that of a mild stroke, trauma brought on by too many stressors – illness, long hours, concern for my school & teachers & students, not to mention keeping up with my family, and the ever-present pain. My brain began to heal but my pain remained and, in fact, grew. I’ll spare you the diagnoses and theories that brought on the various types of chronic pain and bring you to January, 2013 when I could no longer sit in our living room (which I rarely saw) and watch TV with my family because the pain in my back was too intense to allow me to sit through even a 30 minute sit-com. 
Since then, I have had several huge bounds forward and a couple of devastating tugs backward. But one thing remains constant:
My God loves me so much that He bore the pain of watching one of His kids – a child He loves more than we can fathom loving one of our own – watching His child suffer for the vast majority of her adult life. He bore that pain because He is more concerned with her good than her feel-good.
How incredibly amazing is that? He held tight during the really bad times because He refused to sacrifice an eternity of good for a fleeting temporal moment of feel-good. Wow!
There are so many things for which I am thankful – lessons that I know I have learned and areas in which I have profited, all because of the pain I’ve endured. There are so many people for whom I am thankful because of their compassion and service and intercession and love and faith and trust and help, all cultivated because of dealing with a loved one in chronic pain. There are so may relationships for which I am thankful that have grown exponentially tighter and more valuable because of the things we have gone through together because of my pain. There are so many virtues for which I am thankful that I see in my children, virtues that I have no doubt were wrought out of the ordeal of having a mother with chronic pain. 
But I am infinitely more thankful for my God, the Father, the Author of the Universe, who saw all of the pain beforehand and the outcome of afterward and allowed me to go through it all for the sake of good. He is El Shaddai, God Almighty, the all-powerful God who could have taken the pain away in much less than the blink of an eye but chose not to do so, all for the sake of good. He is Jehovah Rapha, the God Who Heals, and yet He held off on my healing for the sake of good. 
I’m so thankful and incredibly humbled that the God of the Universe who has so many other things to draw His attention, has firmly placed Holy Spirit between me and all the (Christian) naysayers. God has protected me, provided for me, shown mercy to me, and given me the ultimate gift of not giving in to what so many people tried to tell Him (and me) the He should do in order to make things turn in the direction of what they, in their finite and earthly minds, deemed the good for me.
I am supremely grateful that God is smarter than I and knows that yes, I shall be healed by the stripes of Yeshua my Messiah, but that God’s timing is of utmost importance, that good is more important than feel-good, and that God’s will surpasses all others – for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Yes, I am thankful for every minute of my pain.